Posted On 26. February 2018 In Communication, Something to think about

Communicating truth

Carlos Barrio and Lipperheide, Argentina, author of “La alegría en el trabajo” [Joy in work]

Comments on Pope Francis’ prayer for the 52nd World Communications Day (2018) 

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Help us to recognize the evil latent in a communication that does not build communion.

Help us to remove the venom from our judgements.

Help us to speak about others as our brothers and sisters.

You are faithful and trustworthy; may our words be seeds of goodness for the world:

where there is shouting, let us practise listening;

where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony;

where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity;

where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity;

where there is sensationalism, let us use sobriety;

where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions;

where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust;

where there is hostility, let us bring respect;

where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.

Amen

 

Pope Francis

 

Carlos Barrios

Human beings express themselves through communication.  Everything we do communicates in one way or another. As communication theorist Paul Watzlawick said, “one cannot not communicate[1], because “all behaviour is communication.” [2]

In communicating, we express our being, our beliefs and values. But very often we try to hide our true intentions through messages that on the surface say something, but have a different intention that remains or pretends to remain hidden or knowingly falsifies reality (“fake news”).

These false messages seek to draw attention and support to specific causes by highlighting certain aspects and hiding others.

All of us, at one time or another, have to some extent fallen into this trap which we can call the “manipulation” of the message that we transmit to others, and that we use to stir the pot, creating confusion, ambiguity, exclusion, sensationalism, superficiality, prejudice, hostility and/or falsehood in what we transmit, as Pope Francis points out in his prayer.

Communication begins in human hearts

Therefore, authentic communication begins in human hearts, in man’s deepest intentions, in that place where there is no place for lies, “where truthfulness governs and truth reigns and is triumphant.”[3]

Seeking to transmit the truth is a humble, difficult, and profound process, which implies a commitment of faithfulness to express what we see as reality and recognize as true, knowing that our perspective is always partial and enclosed and that we have to leave space for other interpretations.

On the one hand, we perceive mental models as our culture and our interests cause us — often unconsciously — to emphasise and/or relativize some aspects of reality that we understand. As the Talmud says, “we don’t see things as they are, but as we are.”

But on the other hand, we have to recognize that our hearts also tend towards evil and selfishness and that in these circumstances, when we communicate, we do so based on petty interests, knowingly hiding the truth.

The perspectives of interest

When we communicate, we need to be very aware of our perspectives of interest, that is, those aspects that reflect the personal structure of our make-up and the situation or personal circumstances in terms of interests, desires and needs that each one of us have and pursue. Fr. Kentenich says that “my nature has a very particular point of view, a perspective, and this perspective is dictated by my interests, by my life. My nature is thus oriented, and wants a response. This, therefore, is the perspective of interest.” [4]

What immediately comes to mind are the different ways of seeing that emerge from the perspectives of interest that exist, depending on whether we are owners or employees of a company, or whether we belong to a workers association or a trade union.

Listening to the perspective of interest reflects our desires and needs and those of others, of which we are sometimes aware, but not at other times. [5]

It is only from this awareness of the difficulty that we all have in being objective in our opinions, that we can begin to discover the truth.

Evangelising our perspective of interest

In a recent conversation I had with Fr. José María Garcia, he said that one of the great challenges we have today, is how to evangelise our perspective of interest, filling it with value to give it new meaning.

If for example, in the world of work, the head of the company has a closed and reductionist view of his own interests, he will probably not be able to include the interests of the salaried employees in his perspective, and therefore will not understand them or take them into account. Similarly, if the salaried worker does not broaden his understanding of his perspective of interest to include the interests of the head of the company, he will not be able to understand him or his concerns.

Taking into consideration the perspective of interest of the other person and integrate it with mine, is in my opinion, one of the greatest challenges that communication and companies face.

Fr. Kentenich was very aware of the tensions that exist in society and in all organisations, and he offered us ways to overcome them, through what he called “a creative unity in tension,” [6] in which opposing poles do not operate independently but are integrated, so that they form the same organic reality.

Following this train of thought, we can say that there can be no company without capital, but also without work. Both aspects should be included into an integrated perspective of interest that encompasses and conforms them and does not separate disassociate, isolate, and confront them in a destructive way.

If we cannot establish a creative unity in tension, this will give rise to a destructive tension. This sadly happens very often when one of the parties in the tension forcefully imposes themselves on the other. We see this lack of attachment daily in the poles of tension created by low salaries set by companies that hold a dominant position in the market, or in endless strikes, especially those where no effort is made to overcome the conflict and labour action is prolonged. These are two typical examples where communication shuts down, leading to a destructive tension between the different parties.

Only when the tension is overcome can we pray with Pope Francis: “Help us to recognize the evil latent in a communication that does not build communion.

Be authors and sources of abounding life

This communion should not lead to uniformity without tension, but to the achievement of this creative synthesis [7] that allows us to discover the life currents that cross our path. To discover these, we should develop an authentic leadership that allows us to “be authors and sources of burgeoning life[8] as Kentenich puts it. He proposes a strong and challenging leadership!

A leader is able to “maintain a living contact[9] with his collaborators, and is aware that each person in the community exists within a life current. [10] The leader listen to reality to discover where the currents of life are to be found, to promote them, develop them and to share them with everyone.[11]

I would present two cases that represent opposing poles of leadership and communication; one is geared towards the development of currents of life and the other is closed on itself and is destructive.

The first is the Peruvian private security company, Liderman, founded by Javier Calvo Pérez. Security work was looked down upon in Peru when Calvo Pérez began working in this field. The guards were ridiculed and seen as very simple people without education or the capacity for discernment. Calvo Pérez restored their dignity.

In his book “La oreja en el piso”[12] [Ear to the ground], he relates that “our effort over many years focused on restoring the dignity of all the people who work in the private security business, especially in Latin America. [13] In this way he brought about what Francis says in his prayer: “where there is hostility, let us bring respect.”

He explains that the keys for his success were “working only with ethical people and companies who had the same or similar values as ours, who were committed to human beings, society and the environment.” [14] From this perspective, he brought Francis’ prayer to life: “where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.”

Another central aspect of the business principles he applied to his company were based on the idea that “the leader…should have…his ear to the ground of the organisation, to listen from the ground as far as possible, including to those people whom normally nobody considers or gives the necessary space to speak about their feelings.” [15] Here Pérez Calvo adopted the principle that Francis mentions in his prayer: “where there is shouting, let us practise listening.”

The case of Volkswagen

The second type of leadership and communication, which I describe as mechanistic and geared to exclusive benefit without regard or consideration for the common good, is in the false information that both Volkswagen and Toyota gave to the US regulation authorities on various occasions. Volkswagen admitted that it had fitted 11 million diesel vehicles, which were sold between 2009 and 2015 throughout the world, with software that falsified the results of diesel engine emissions tests.

As a result of this fraud, its cars successfully passed the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.  The cars implicated in this fraud emit up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxide, casting doubt on whether the German company’s diesel engine is really cleaner than petrol engines. Volkswagon admitted that the incident cost $18.200 million.

Similarly, the US authorities investigated Toyota for four years to determine whether its auto traders had deceived clients and the authorities about problems with the acceleration pedals of its cars. Ultimately, Toyota was fined for having hidden its vehicle defects, that is to say, it lied and let everyone believe that the problem had been solved. Its vehicle defects caused the death of more than 20 people. Eric Holder, one of the members of the Department of Justice, used the most forceful terms to speak about the company, saying that Toyota’s conduct was “disgraceful” and that it preferred to “protect its brand rather than its clients.”

These cases speak about a culture of deceit and lies, contrary to a life current. Furthermore, I would say that these are currents of death, because in addition to being based on falsehood, they cost people their lives and polluted the environment.

We have to rediscover the true meaning of the company as Enrique Shaw said. It “must also be a cell of economic life, it should be a community of life,” [16] which encourages workers to bring “their own initiative and contribute with an undreamed of abundance of creative fantasy”[17] and feel “stimulated to work with joy.” [18] In this way, we will be able to integrate the perspectives of interest of all those who participate in and generate of the company’s wealth, and encourage currents of life that come our way.

Only leadership that sees itself at the service of life, is able to restore man’s trust in man and the joy that comes from meaningful work, generating healthy communication so that together with Francis, we can pray: “You are faithful and trustworthy; may our words be seeds of goodness for the world.”

 

Carlos E. Barrio y Lipperheide, [email protected]17/2/18

 

[1] P. Watzlawick, J. Beavin Bavelas y D.D. Jackson, “Teoría de la Comunicación humana.” [Pragmatics of Human Communication] Editorial Herder (1997), pág. 52.

[2] P. Watzlawick, J. Beavin Bavelas y D.D. Jackson, “Teoría de la Comunicación humana. [Pragmatics of Human Communication] Editorial Herder (1997), pág. 50.

[3] Joseph Kentenich. “Heavenwards”, 604.

[4]cfr. Horacio Sosa. “El Desafío de los Valores. Aportes de José Kentenich a la pedagogía actual” [The Challenge of Values. Contributions by Joseph Kentenich for current pedagogy]. EDUCA (Ediciones de la Universidad Católica Argentina). 2000, p 263

[5]  Juan Pablo Berra says that “… all feelings are energies that emerge as the consequence of a desire or of a need that is satisfied or not satisfied.” Juan Pablo Barro. “Los 7 niveles de la Comunicación” [The 7 levels of Communication]. Editorial SB. Julio 2009, p 89.

[6] Joseph Kentenich. “What is My Philosopy of Education”. Schoenstatt Publications (1990), p. 9

[7] Idem

[8] Idem, p 46 (p. 27)

[9] Joseph Kentenich. “Textos Pedagógicos” [Pedagogical Texts]. Editorial Nueva Patris (Herbert King) – 2005-, p.304.

[10] Idem, p 304 and 305.

[11] Idem, p. 306

[12] Javier Calvo Pérez. “La oreja en el piso” [Ear to the ground]. Editorial Aguilar (2012).

[13] Idem, p 15

[14] Idem, p. 28

[15] Idem, p. 38

[16] Enrique Shaw. “… y dominad la tierra” […and dominate the earth]. Editorial ACDE (2010), p.29.

[17] Idem

[18] Idem, p. 30.

 

Original: Spanish, 19 February. Translation: Sarah-Leah Pimentel, Cape Town, South Africa; Edited: Mary Cole, Kearsley, England

“The truth will set you free” (Jn 8:32). Fake news and journalism for peace

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